CC Life Gareth Kelly

Lives well lived

CC 2Story by Gareth Kelly, Photos courtesy of Sky Bergman

What’s that saying? Youth is wasted on the young? Perhaps 100 years ago that was once the case, but as we, as a society, grow older and older we are seeing more and more “old” people living full lives. One such lady is Evelyn Ricciuti a Floridian of Italian heritage who is 102 years young and is the grandmother of local Cal Poly photography and videography professor Sky Bergman.
“I would often go to Florida to visit my grandmother,” said Bergman. “When I went out for her 99th birthday, I watched her working out in the gym and cooking in the kitchen and realized I needed to film her. She is not only an inspiration to me but was the inspiration behind this film.”
CCThe film Bergman refers to has become her labor of love. Lives Well Lived is a full-length documentary about 40 inspiring characters all over the age of 75 and also features a photography exhibition (currently being shown at the Cal Poly library) as well as an online component of stories, interviews and photos.
“I didn’t go into this to make a movie,” said Bergman. “I filmed my grandma and turned it into a brief short and it won an award. I started to interview more people and realized this was becoming a film. I sent out a call to action in an email for people to nominate people for the project, and, now, I feel like I have 40 new grandparents. I came up with a list of 25 questions and set about interviewing my subjects.”
With hours and hours of footage and taking up the most of the past two years Bergman hopes to have the film finished by the end of the summer, just in time to start entering film festivals and hopefully get into Sundance. Having shown a 35-minute preview of the film at the Palm Theatre in SLO Bergman realizes her film and the stories within touch us all.
“I’m often asked what’s their secret? To be honest, not one person I interviewed told me it was diet and exercise,” Bergman said. “What they all have in common though is a sense of purpose, whatever it is, their passion, their desire to never stop learning every day of their lives. They all have that along with their sense of community. Even those that live alone are still connected to their communities and to people and, of course, they all have a sense of humor and a glass is always half full mentality. I could tell they were often happy someone was taking the time to listen to their stories. I mean just for myself I was able to include my own father and ask him about his own mortality, not as his daughter but as the filmmaker.”
Featuring many central coast locals such as Morro Bay music teacher Botso Korisheli, 92, Bob Sinsheimer, 94 and Marion Wolff, 84 Bergman has managed to capture the tales and the life force within these and all the interviewees in a way that speaks to us all.
“When asked about young people and being young themselves most of the interviewees wished they had enjoyed the moment more, contributed more and asked their parents more questions,” said Bergman. “They believe time is more valuable than money and wish we were all more tolerant of others and not worry about what others think to live every moment of every day. As for the real secret to their old age, dumb luck is the oft response.”
Although the film itself is almost finished, the project is not. Bergman hopes many more people of age will join the discussion and add their voices to the narrative of this beautiful story on the website For more information and to keep up to date on the films release and screenings, visit the website.

Gareth feels he is getting older day by day. What do you do locally to keep the grim reaper at bay? Email your stories to